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The changing definition of façades in the UAE

by Nikhil Pereira on Nov 4, 2018

Burj Khalifas faade was used as a scoreboard during the 2018 Fifa World Cup 2018 [image: Emaar].
Burj Khalifas faade was used as a scoreboard during the 2018 Fifa World Cup 2018 [image: Emaar].

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Rope access companies in the UAE are starting to enjoy new sources of business as a result of a shift in demand that is taking place in the country’s property sector.

Developers are looking to make their buildings more attractive by installing decorative LED lights on the façades. The best and most high-profile example of this new trend is Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which launched a dazzling LED set-up on New Year’s Eve last year.

The Dubai-based rope access specialist Grako was involved in bringing the impressive Burj Khalifa lighting project to life, and the company’s managing partner, Alain El Tawil, shed some light on the developing trend that is brightening the skyline of the city and beyond.

There is a significant demand for external lighting on buildings, he explains, adding that recently, like many similar businesses in the rope access field worldwide, Grako is receiving a lot of enquiries.

“The most recent one was from Philips Lighting. We are working on the Abu Dhabi Gate Towers at the moment [to install LED lighting there],” El Tawil says, adding that the firm is getting involved with more technical projects than ever before.

While rope access has long been useful in the cleaning of building façades, demand for technical work is now on the rise, he says.

“You need technicians to do drilling, bolting, cabling and installations. And the system is a complex one – it is not a simple LED strip that you might install domestically,” he adds.

Grako has been involved with other projects, such as Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotel properties in Abu Dhabi. “We have also done some work at  Etihad Towers in the capital,” El Tawil says, noting that the company’s first LED installation was six years ago.

READ: UAE building façades become tools of communication

“Back then, it was an all-new concept, and not everyone was interested in doing it because there is a cost implication.

“However, once stakeholders started seeing it on buildings, and the impact it creates on the asset value [...], the trend started changing.  There are so many different things you can do with lighting and LEDs, and the Burj Khalifa is a perfect [example] – it is used to show support for various causes and events around the globe,” he says.

The addition of lighting mechanisms on building façades has resulted in a change to Grako’s standard operating procedures when it comes to cleaning.

“Now, there is an additional item on to the building, so it creates a few challenges – the ropes coming into contact with the LED systems, and ensuring we do not damage them while working at heights,” he says.

READ: Burj Khalifa façade to relay football world cup match live scores

El Tawil adds that with such spectacular displays on buildings, there is no room for structural system failures either.

“Downtime is not tolerated by any client”, he continues.

“And while we were predominantly involved in doing soft services from ropes, we have seen an increase in the technical side of operations, with the maintenance of LED light systems on the rise,” El Tawil concludes.